WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) — U.S. airstrikes killed at least 70 al-Qaida fighters at a mountain training camp in Yemen, the Pentagon announced.
The attack Tuesday morning involved manned and unmanned aircraft, Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood said. It was apparently independent of a campaign against rebels in Yemen undertaken by a bloc led by Saudi Arabia. It is unclear if there was any coordination between the United States and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday’s airstrike.
“This strike deals a blow to [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s] ability to use Yemen as a base for attacks that threaten U.S. persons, and it demonstrates our commitment to defeating al-Qaida and denying it safe haven,” a statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
The reference to “U.S. persons” has been used in the past as justification for airstrikes on targeted training camps in North Africa and the Middle East.
AQAP moved into Yemen in the early 2000s and its camps have been frequent targets, although U.S. operations in Yemen were suspended with the start of a civil war in 2015. The Saudi-led coalition, with U.S. support, has intervened against Houthi rebels in backing the Yemeni government, attacking Houthi targets but occasionally sending airstrikes against al-Qaida forces.